hod (humility) within hod (humility)
by Tzvi Schnee
Today is the 33rd day, four weeks and five days of the counting of the Omer. Today is known as Lag b’Omer, in commemoration of the Talmudic scholar, Shimon bar Yochai. The Zohar, a Jewish mystical work is attributed to him. Many in Israel light bonfires, especially in Meron, where he is buried. The day is also the day when the plague that had been taking the lives of R’ Akiva’s students stopped. Regarding the middot, the aspect of hod (humility) is explored in its potency with hod (humility). Sincere humility is one way to sum up the particular combination of middot (character traits) on this day.
Is my humility sincere? Conversely, is my expression of humility, actually, a false pretense to mask my inner narcissism? How do I express my humility? Do I act out of true deference, or a show of subservience? On a comprehensive level, the “middah of hod,” according to kabbalah, represents submission to a greater cause. Subduing oneself for the sake of something greater than oneself, over time, can elicit true humility. In acknowledging my subservience to G-d, I bring myself low, figuratively speaking, I prostrate before Him in my heart. This is true avodah (service), unfeigned, when my inner person makes room for G-d in my heart.
By way of true service to G-d, realizing my limitations in respect to Him, how much greater He is than me, I also begin to see how many qualities other people have, placing them above me in my own estimation. True humility is said to be the realization that everyone else is above me. In other words, sincere humility is when I lower myself, in my own eyes, to a place lower than each and every person in my life. This is an active humility, engaged in the practical nature of my life; rather than perceiving humility as an ideal state of mind, that in and of itself seems like a lofty aspiration, I can bring my humility “down to earth,” through relating to others.